ISDCF conducted its second Plugfest in July. The first was held in March as part of a well-advertised demonstration of SMPTE DCP interoperability. During the March demo, it became clear to the participating companies that the real benefit of the event was having so many manufacturers together in an informal test environment. The dialog, sharing, and spontaneous tests that result reveal much about product behavior. Less was learned from the public part of the demonstration, where an audience gets to see the results. In fact, what the audience saw was a filtered set of results so as not to unfairly position each product. Following the March experience, the July event was planned simply as a “plugfest,” sans the well-advertised demonstration. Technicolor once again donated its Interoperability Test Center (ITC), with its enormous and capable projection booth, for the gathering. Fox and Disney/Cinecert supplied test material.
The results were far different from those in March. Some things worked, some things simply didn’t. SMPTE DCP open subtitles and captions were working with the TI Series 1 projector, a feature that was not available in March. This feature is still not available for the Series 2 projector, but will hopefully be ready to show by the next plugfest.
Closed caption interoperability was challenged. There were problems, but it was difficult to understand the cause. There were changes in content. Prior to the event, WGBH generated new closed captions for Disney’s The Game Plan, one of the available test materials for SMPTE DCP testing. The new closed caption content was in three languages. Notably, this was not a full stress of the standard, which allows up to 6 languages of closed captions. In the course of preparation, Cinecert repackaged The Game Plan twice, once upon receipt of the new WGBH material, and again the night before the event after an error was found. However, Dolby, Doremi, GDC, and Sony servers each had problems playing closed captions from The Game Plan.
The only other test material available was from Fox. Fox created a new stress test for open subtitles, designed to fill buffers and stress the playout electronics within the parameters allowed by the standard. The stress was successful, happily breaking every system in the plugfest. Lots of homework assignments were handed out. The good news was that the open subtitles generated by the Doremi and GDC servers better matched those generated by the projectors. (The Dolby server can’t render subtitles on its own, and the Sony system marries media block and projector, such that it can only render subtitles in one way.) Closed captions with Avatar appeared “rubbery” in timing when compared to the same caption projected openly, but it could not be determined which one was off – the open captions or the closed captions.
Unfortunately, USL’s closed caption system was the only one tested with the CSP/RPL protocol. Intelligent Access was present, who also uses CSP/RPL, but was unable to get their system to work with the Dolby server. Intelligent Access said they had not yet tested their system with Doremi, GDC, or Sony.
One has to break eggs to make an omelet, and the July plugfest broke a lot of eggs. There was plenty of investigation work created for most everyone. As an event, the plugfest was deemed a success. It exposed problems, and forced several participants to go back and get things right. The next plugfest is scheduled for November 16.